A Palmerston North mother was emotional and panicked the night she took part in a plot to abduct her baby from hospital, a court has heard.
Judge Lance Rowe said to an extent he accepted the state Jamie Rowena Henry, 37, was in when she smuggled her 2-day-old daughter out of the neonatal unit at Palmerston North Hospital.
But Rowe’s message was clear as he sentenced Henry in the Palmerston North District Court on Tuesday – vulnerable children such as the infant, who had been removed from her mother by Child, Youth and Family, need to be protected.
The plot to abduct the child in December 2016, involved three women – Henry, Te Arohanui Taputoro, 21, and Tara Jade Taputoro, 28.
READ MORE: * Woman who abducted baby already had three children removed by CYF * Mother pleads not guilty to abducting daughter from hospital * Newborn baby allegedly abducted from Palmerston North Hospital
Rowe said it was a “deliberate and premeditated act”, and that it was wrong for the women to assume it was safe to remove the baby from hospital.
Henry initially pleaded not guilty to the crime, but later changed her plea. Te Arohanui Taputoro, and Tara Taputoro, also pleaded guilty in March.
On Tuesday, Henry was sentenced to nine months’ home detention for her part in the crime, while the Taputoro sisters will be sentenced in May.
According to a police summary of facts, Henry has had four children removed from her care – the baby involved in this case, and three others – due to drug use, neglect and family violence issues.
Henry gave birth to her youngest child on December 12, and CYF obtained a custody order the next day, placing the child in its care.
At 5pm on December 14, the Taputoros went to Henry’s house, gathered baby gear and went to the hospital.
They signed in under fake names before going to see Henry in the neonatal unit at 8.15pm.
Te Arohanui Taputoro took Henry’s belongings from the hospital to a car. She waited there for some time before Henry called her back in at 11pm.
She was given the baby wrapped in a jacket, and told to run by Henry. The pair made it to the car and Tara Taputoro arrived soon after.
The trio then fled to a motel and were arrested by police the following day.
Henry’s lawyer Marina Anderson said Henry’s “rash decision” to remove the baby from CYF care came after she found out the child would be put into the care of someone she didn’t know.
During the 14 hours the baby was at the motel, she was not in distress, but cared for by her mother, Anderson said.
“She told me she just wanted to hold the baby.”
Anderson said Henry was remorseful and had since gone drug-free and sought help. She was also working towards having contact visits with the baby.
Rowe said he took the use of fake names, fleeing, the breach of a court order, and breach of trust into account while sentencing Henry.
However, he also noted her emotional and panicked state at the time of the abduction, the remorse she had shown, her guilty plea and her personal progress.
Henry nodded from the dock as he handed down her sentence.
Outside court, chief medical officer Dr Kenneth Clark said that following the event MidCentral DHB had made improvements to the oversight of vulnerable babies in its care.
This included a review of security arrangements in its child and women’s health services, as well as training for staff in relation to child safety.
Babies identified as at risk of abduction now had a staff member present at all times, he said.
The maximum penalty for abducting a child under 16 is seven years’ imprisonment.